You don’t have to look far over the horizon to know what life in America would be like if we had a national ID. On Saturday, the Associated Press reported that a mall in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin is considering requiring ID from youths before they can enter. This is private ordering, of course, but private ordering doesn’t happen in a bubble. Private actors will be much more likely to check IDs if there is a nationally uniform ID system.
With IDs and credentials of different designs and from different issuers in our hands today, ID checking is relatively rare, and rarely automated. Nonetheless, companies like Intelli-Check are pushing electronic ID-checking systems for nanny-state purposes. They would have a much easier time if all of us carried the same card and it was effectively mandatory. Keep in mind that more ID checking equals more personal data collection.
In tiny Earlville, Illinois, a woman named Joy Robinson-Van Gilder has started a one-woman crusade against her local public school which decided to use fingerprint biometrics to administer the purchase of hot lunches in the cafeteria. Despite her wishes, they fingerprint-scanned her 7-year-old, for a time refusing to allow him hot lunches if he wouldn’t use their system.
The starting point for this kind of program is using it to manage lunch payments, but the ending point is a detailed record of each child’s eating habits and the school usurping the role of parents. It’s no wonder government schools are at the center of so much social conflict.
There is nothing inherently wrong with identification or with biometrics but, unless they are adopted through voluntary choice, they will be designed to serve institutions and not people.